"Fall seven times, stand up eight. " - Japanese Proverb
I sometimes have difficulty focusing. No surprise, I'm a classroom teacher and when twenty-five students stomp into our portable classroom the room can get pretty riotous with before class chatter, pre-class music, an occasional moment of dancing. I refocus by changing my state (moving, changing positions), by writing, by drawing, by counting--I'm a veteran re-focuser. My students are not.
Students have difficulty focusing (or re-focusing) especially when it comes to reading. It takes us a few minutes to settle into our stories. If there are rumors of a fight, we might settle down only to be distracted by a whispered question or rumor. If the weather turns, if it rains, the metal tap-tap sound of drops on our roof will pull students' minds away, some of them, right out of a good book. Then it's chair-tilting, eyes-staring, mouth-yawning, pencil-sharpening time.
I gave up "shh" several years ago for Lent. I have a quiet signal--though I don't use it during reading time. To help students settle during reading time, I get quiet. My son's kindergarten teacher taught me that. She says, "the louder the children get, the quieter I get." Now, like Mrs. Delemos, I use my presence, not my voice. I minimize the distraction of me to support students in their effort to refocus. I get still and stay still until all students are submersed in their books; only then will their eyes not track me around the room. Then, I encourage. I conference. I book talk or check-in.
It works with readers. With students who are still sampling books or skimming the room with their eyes skirting the book covers, it's hit or miss. At this point in the year, all but a couple are reading away and begging for entire class periods to just read. Learning what will re-engage the browsers and samplers makes teaching like exploration and discovery.